Posted: Thursday, February 4, 2021. 2:18 pm CST.
The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Breaking Belize News.
By Dr. Jarrod Saduski: My name is Dr. Jarrod Sadulski and I conduct research in Central and South America on current issues in the field of criminal justice. I research prison management and issues within prisons in North America, Central America, and South America. I have spent a considerable amount of time learning about the Belize Central Prison and I recently read in the news that one of the last prison inmates that escaped alleged that he escaped due to fear of the coronavirus and he alleged that the Belize Central Prison was deliberately exposing inmates to the coronavirus. That allegation is contrary to everything I have seen at the Belize Central Prison since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. It is important to note that the escapee was part of a violent uprising within the prison that involved stealing an assault rifle from a guard, overtaking guards, holding them hostage, physically abusing guards and ultimately the loss of life that occurred.
Comparing Belize Central Prison to other Prisons
I would argue that the Belize Central Prison has set exemplary management practices with limited resources to combat the coronavirus. In August of 2020, six months into the pandemic, the Belize Central Prison had not experienced any cases of the coronavirus. In comparison, at that time in August, there were at least 86,639 prison inmates in the United States that had tested positive for the coronavirus. By January 26th, 2021 there have been 366,121 inmates who have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Marshall Project.
The practices used at the Belize Central Prison continued to be effective until the outbreak in October, which was quickly addressed by the prison management through the implementation of a 21-day lockdown. This prompt approach to limit the spread of the coronavirus resulted in cases dropping from 100 cases to only 6 within the prison. The prison has been effective at mitigating the spread of the virus since October through providing hand sanitizer, wearing masks, and non-contact temperature checks for everyone visiting the prison.
The escapee that alleged that his actions were based on conditions associated with the coronavirus pandemic is consistent with other prison unrest. For example, there was a prison riot at La Modelo Prison in Bogota, Colombia in March 2020 that was coordinated with 13 other prisons around Colombia where 23 inmates died and 83 inmates were injured. Coronavirus concerns were cited as the reason for the riot. This occurred early in the pandemic and in response to the riot, the Justice Minister Margarita Cabello said that as of the date of the riot, there had not been any inmates or prison personnel who tested positive for the coronavirus.
Coronavirus Pandemic Mitigation
The Belize Central Prison continues to take steps to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. High traffic areas within the prison are consistently disinfected that includes surfaces, equipment within the prison, and prison staff transport vehicles. Social distancing is maintained by staff and handwashing stations have been strategically placed throughout the prison. Education has been provided to inmates through posters around the prison and through the prison’s radio station. Newly admitted inmates are placed in separate isolation buildings for 14 days.
Controlling the spread of the coronavirus is a major challenge for any prison. It is important that staff and inmates do everything they can to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Based on my research the last couple of years at the Belize Central Prison, I am confident that they are doing everything they can to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The Belize Central Prison has earned international recognition for their achievements in prison management. The prison has also received international support. In December of 2020, the Pan American Health Organization provided the Belize Central Prison 25,000 surgical masks, 80 non-sterile gowns, 300 goggles, 350 face shields, and 53,7000 pairs of gloves. These important components of PPE are used on a daily basis to protect inmates and staff from the coronavirus.
Please feel free to reach out to me for further comment at [email protected]
Jarrod Sadulski, Ph.D.
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